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The dark shadow of eugenics in Nazi Germany

The National WWII Museum Poster illustrating the alleged superiority of the Aryan raceThe National WWII Museum

The Max Planck Society (MPG) has appointed a team of four independent researchers to spend three years investigating crimes committed by its scientists under the Nazi regime. During and after the Third Reich, members of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society – MPG forerunner – conducted research using brain tissue samples from mentally disabled people who had been murdered under Hitler’s “racial hygiene” plan. More than 200,000 individuals were killed as part of the Nazi “euthanasia” program. In 1980, an enormous quantity of tissue samples that had been removed from these victims was found stored in MPG collections; most of the material was then buried.  Assigned in January 2017, the panel of experts will analyze records and study remaining samples to recover the history of these victims. “We want to find out who the victims were and give them part of their human dignity back,” Heinz Wässle, director emeritus of the neuroanatomy department at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, told the journal Science. Another goal of the investigation is to understand how this research flourished and to what extent the scientists were involved. According to British historian Paul Weindling, panel member, the Nazi euthanasia program has been well researched. “What was not reconstructed was that a proportion of victims” — estimated at 5% — “had their brains withheld for research.”